The Dynamiter

Page 90

The man began to loiter, studying with apparent interest the wares of the small fruiterer or tobacconist; twice he returned hurriedly upon his former course; and then, as though he had suddenly conquered a moment's hesitation, once more set forth with resolute and swift steps in the direction of Lincoln's Inn. At length, in a deserted by-street, he turned; and coming up to Harry with a countenance which seemed to have become older and whiter, inquired with some severity of speech if he had not had the pleasure of seeing the gentleman before.

'You have, sir,' said Harry, somewhat abashed, but with a good show of stoutness; 'and I will not deny that I was following you on purpose. Doubtless,' he added, for he supposed that all men's minds must still be running on Teresa, 'you can divine my reason.'

At these words, the man with the chin-beard was seized with a palsied tremor. He seemed, for some seconds, to seek the utterance which his fear denied him; and then whipping sharply about, he took to his heels at the most furious speed of running.

Harry was at first so taken aback that he neglected to pursue; and by the time he had recovered his wits, his best expedition was only rewarded by a glimpse of the man with the chin-beard mounting into a hansom, which immediately after disappeared into the moving crowds of Holborn.

Puzzled and dismayed by this unusual behaviour, Harry returned to the house in Queen Square, and ventured for the first time to knock at the fair Cuban's door. She bade him enter, and he found her kneeling with rather a disconsolate air beside a brown wooden trunk.

'Senorita,' he broke out, 'I doubt whether that man's character is what he wishes you to believe. His manner, when he found, and indeed when I admitted that I was following him, was not the manner of an honest man.'

'Oh!' she cried, throwing up her hands as in desperation, 'Don Quixote, Don Quixote, have you again been tilting against windmills?' And then, with a laugh, 'Poor soul!' she added, 'how you must have terrified him! For know that the Cuban authorities are here, and your poor Teresa may soon be hunted down. Even yon humble clerk from my solicitor's office may find himself at any moment the quarry of armed spies.'

'A humble clerk!' cried Harry, 'why, you told me yourself that he wished to marry you!'

'I thought you English like what you call a joke,' replied the lady calmly. 'As a matter of fact, he is my lawyer's clerk, and has been here to-night charged with disastrous news. I am in sore straits, Senor Harry. Will you help me?'

At this most welcome word, the young man's heart exulted; and in the hope, pride, and self-esteem that kindled with the very thought of service, he forgot to dwell upon the lady's jest. 'Can you ask?' he cried. 'What is there that I can do? Only tell me that.'

With signs of an emotion that was certainly unfeigned, the fair Cuban laid her hand upon the box. 'This box,' she said, 'contains my jewels, papers, and clothes; all, in a word, that still connects me with Cuba and my dreadful past. They must now be smuggled out of England; or, by the opinion of my lawyer, I am lost beyond remedy. To-morrow, on board the Irish packet, a sure hand awaits the box: the problem still unsolved, is to find some one to carry it as far as Holyhead, to see it placed on board the steamer, and instantly return to town. Will you be he? Will you leave to- morrow by the first train, punctually obey orders, bear still in mind that you are surrounded by Cuban spies; and without so much as a look behind you, or a single movement to betray your interest, leave the box where you have put it and come straight on shore? Will you do this, and so save your friend?'

'I do not clearly understand . . .' began Harry.

'No more do I,' replied the Cuban. 'It is not necessary that we should, so long as we obey the lawyer's orders.'

'Senorita,' returned Harry gravely, 'I think this, of course, a very little thing to do for you, when I would willingly do all. But suffer me to say one word.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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